Jackson County's average weekly wage one of lowest in nation

Workers in Jackson County receive weekly wages significantly below the national average, according to the U.S. Labor Department statistics released today.

Among the nation's 334 counties with employment of 75,000 or more, Jackson County ranks No. 324 with average weekly wage of $665.

For a 40-hour week, that would equate to an hourly wage of $16.625 — roughly double the minimum wage.

Washington ($986 average) and Multnomah ($934 average) counties in northern Oregon exceeded the national average weekly wages of $918 per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clackamas ($821), Lane ($711) and Marion counties were below average, the report said. Overall, Oregon ranked No. 30 with an average weekly wage of $808.

Bill Thorndike, president of Medford Fabrication and former member of the Portland branch board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said dwindling employment might raise the average wage in future reports.

"For most businesses today, you've retained longer-term employees that are probably at a higher wage rate," Thorndike said. "In a downturn where you are eliminating jobs, your cost per hour actually goes up."

The type of jobs found in Oregon contributed to the comparatively lower wages in some instances, said Dave Kong of the San Francisco office of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Agriculture and forestry-related firms remain relatively large employers, and manufacturing employment in the state is 15 percent above the national average. Oregon employment in higher-paying professional and technical service jobs is only three-quarters of the national rate. Health care services and real estate related employment are both near the national norm, Kong said.

Areas with wages lower than Jackson County's include three rural agriculture-based south Texas counties: Hidalgo ($574), Cameron ($584) and Webb ($600), as well as Horry, S.C., ($581) and Yakima, Wash. ($624). Tulare County in California's San Joaquin Valley, another area dependent on agriculture, reported average weekly wages of $651.

— Greg Stiles

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